House committee approves Supreme Court jurisdiction over court-martial appeals

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee [official website] has approved a bill to give the Supreme Court [official website] jurisdiction to review appeals of court-martial decisions. The proposed legislation, known as the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009 [HR 569 text], would modify the high court's jurisdiction so that service members could petition for review if the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces [official website] declines to review the court-martial decision. Current law permits appeal to the Supreme Court only if the case has been heard by the Court of Appeals. The bill is sponsored by Susan Davis (D-CA) [official website], who testified [press release] before the committee:


It is unjust to deny members of our Armed Forces access to our system of justice as they fight to preserve this very system. Under current law, members of the military who are convicted of offenses under the military justice system do not have the legal right to appeal their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bill will now go before the full House.

The companion bill in the Senate [S 357 text] was introduced last week by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website] and was assigned to committee. Feinstein has long supported the bill [press release], although it was introduced too late in the last session of Congress to be enacted. The American Bar Association [association website] wrote a letter [text, PDF] to the committee in support of the bill last month, calling the current laws a "blatantly unfair procedural system stacked against the service member."


 

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